One reason to like project management is that it works. Most of the techniques you find in books and classes have been around for decades and their value is proven. So imagine my surprise at finding a terrific, time-tested technique that almost nobody in corporate America has seen!
I’m talking about the Logical Framework Approach and its signature graphic, the LogFrame. Everybody agrees that projects ought to deliver value, and that projects ought to be strategically aligned. The LogFrame visually establishes the strategic link of project plans to strategic goals.
If you happen to own a copy of the The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management, then you have a six page overview of the Logical Framework Approach written by Terry Schmidt, who helped pioneer this technique over 40 years ago. Here are a few highlights from that overview.
Start with the graphic, a classic example of a picture that is worth a thousand words.
You quickly grasp that the lowest level is our project plan, in a Gantt format. The “logic” of the Logical Framework Approach works from the bottom up:
IF you complete all the tasks on your project plan (the fourth row) THEN you’ll produce the deliverables, or project outcomes listed on the third row.
IF you produce the deliverables listed in the third row THEN you’ll generate the results (benefits) listed in the second row.
IF you produce the benefits associated with the Purpose of the project (second row) THEN you’ll be supporting the strategic goal described in the first row.
That “IF – THEN” logic better add up, or this project isn’t strategically aligned.
Now add more rigor: The columns labeled Success Measure and Verification challenge your Goal, Purpose, and Outcome to be specific, measurable, and observable.
So where does this technique fit into our project management tool box? And why would it have escaped the notice of so many?
Consider the LogFrame a vital part of a project’s business case. It clearly describes why we are performing the project and establishes the measurable value that the project will deliver. Maybe that’s why it isn’t familiar to project managers; it should be used before a project manager is assigned, when we are evaluating potential projects.
The other reason it is still a stranger to corporate America may be that it was developed for aid projects in the developing world. The approach and LogFrame graphic were developed in 1969 by Leon Rosenberg, of the management consulting firm Practical Concepts Incorporated, to help the United States Agency for International Development, USAID. This agency needed a method to evaluate potential projects, and the Logical Framework Approach became the standard for applying for grant applications to any funding organization, private or public.
I was introduced to the LogFrame and Logical Framework Approach when I started working with NGOs a few years ago. I've since introduced this technique to our clients who are trying to improve their early analysis and project evaluation.
Terry Schmidt offers several resources to learn more about this common sense, high impact approach to summarizing the business case for a project.
Terry's website: Management Pro
Terry's book: Strategic Project Management Made Simple